The AMS has submitted its budget priorities to UBC. Here's what it's asking for

Every year, the AMS sends its budget priorities to UBC, in hopes that university admin will take student priorities into consideration when putting together the budget for the next academic year.

This year’s budget submission calls for better financial aid and mental health support, 20 months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some highlights from the report.

Call for more financial aid

In the submission, the AMS calls for incremental increases to PhD minimum funding and the PhD tuition award. PhD students’ current minimum funding at UBC of $22,000 a year falls below the annualized BC minimum wage of $29,184 a year.

Eshana Bhangu, AMS vice-president of academic and university affairs, highlighted the financial struggles many PhD students are facing.

“A lot of them have maxed out on the debts they can undertake,” Bhangu said. “And that’s just really unfortunate.”

The student society is also asking for more experiential and need-based scholarships for international students, including an expansion to 50 students for the International Impact Award annually.

The report also suggests increasing the percentage of international students’ tuition directed towards international student’s awards, from 7.5 per cent to 8 per cent.

On food insecurity, the AMS is calling for an increase in funding for existing programs like UBC Food Hub, Fooood outlets, Meal Share, Acadia Hampers, Agora and Sprouts.

Ultimately, the AMS wants the university to transition the programs “from an emergency model, to a more community-led sustainable model.”

Removing barriers to lecture recording technologies

Following more than a year of online learning, the AMS is asking for an Enterprise Video Platform (EVP) to integrate all current lecture recording systems.

Currently, there are three different lecture recording systems in place: Kaltura, Mediasite and Panopto.

“They have different systems that work with them in the lecture halls — some require a PC installation, some don’t, some will never work without a PC installation,” said Bhangu. “There are many faculty out there for whom technology is a barrier.”

Bhangu said the goal is to “reduce any and every barrier” that prevent students from having access to recorded lectures.

“That’s what I want to see one day, that every single classroom lecture hall at UBC, has lecture capture technology possible,” said Bhangu.

The report also recommends a review of the current technological capabilities in all Restricted Teaching Spaces.

Student wellbeing is a top priority

The report endorses the Mental Health Literacy (MHL) milestones as identified by UBC Wellbeing. Additionally, it recommends a funding of $240,000 over the next two years for the UBC Black Caucus Mental Wellbeing Project.

Bhangu said the goal is to translate this project to other equity-deserving groups.

“I think there’s a great gap in communications,” she said, referring to the fact that many students aren’t even aware of the counsellors available to them. “The wellbeing gap at UBC is not just going to be solved by hiring an additional counselor … You need to have targeted projects and initiatives”.

On accessibility, the student society is requesting an accessibility audit of all on-campus buildings, following criticism that many buildings on campus are not accessible at all.

UBC’s Climate Action Plan 2030 and the 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan are also explicitly endorsed by the report.

Next steps

By February 2022, a draft budget should be completed and presented to various groups for consultation. By April 2022, the final budget will be approved by the Board of Governors.

Bhangu stressed that the expectation to include student priorities in the upcoming year’s budget doesn’t end with this report.

“If more things come up, we’ll keep on sending it to the administration.”